Could Indiana See Net Metering Come to an End?
INDIANAPOLIS – State lawmakers are getting an earful about legislation that would phase out the financial incentives given to homeowners, businesses, schools and churches that install solar panels.
Senate Bill 309 would overhaul the practice of net metering, which allows those with solar panels to feed their excess power into the grid and get credit on their power bill.
Former U.S. Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. of California, now a consultant, testified against the legislation, saying it would slow renewable energy development in Indiana to a crawl.
"We are burning up a resource that we could very well be using for something else, and especially if you have a substitute like the sun,” he points out. “Why do you want to fight the sun? It sits there every day. Why not utilize it?"
Backers of the bill say it would help businesses increase energy efficiency and promote biomass energy production from animal and bacterial waste. It was debated in committee for more than six hours last week, and could come up for a vote this week.
Republican state Rep. Ron Bacon is against the legislation. He says it would dramatically reduce incentives for people to go solar – and he has 96 solar panels installed on his home.
"Would essentially shut the industry down, because it's just not to the point yet where it can sustain itself,” he stresses. “But we still need to continue to subsidize it, because we want incentivize people to do it and get them off the coal-fired electricity plants and things of that nature, as much as possible."
State Rep. Mike Speedy, also a Republican, is on the Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee. He maintains eliminating net metering would limit consumer choice and discourage solar installers and investments in the state.
"It's not even in its infancy here in Indiana, yet investor-owned utilities are trying to show it the door," he states.
Solar power provides only about 1 percent of the country's energy, but is growing rapidly.
The U.S. Energy Department says employment in the solar industry has increased 125 percent since 2010.